Finland: Less Coal , More Trees

Burning whole forests for energy is Europe’s future.

Finland faces having to import biomass because, despite being Europe’s most densely forested country, it will be unable to meet an expected 70% rise in demand for the fuel after it phases out coal.

Finland approved in February banning the use of coal in energy production by May 2029, which means utilities will have to find alternatives to keep Finns warm as coal currently accounts for around 20% of the energy used for household heating.

As there are limited plans to use more gas to produce heat in Finland, and other sources such as solar and geothermal energy are not yet commercially viable, using more biomass is seen as the most economical way of meeting the country’s future energy needs.

Biomass includes forest wood, timber logging residues, and industry by-products such as wood chips, black liquor, and other bio-waste.

Estimates shown to Reuters by Poyry consultancy – which advises the government on energy, industry and infrastructure needs – calculate that Finland will need 64 terawatt hours (TWh) worth of biomass in 2030 just for energy production, up from 38 TWh currently.

Domestic supply of biomass, on the other hand, is forecast to grow by only 8 TWh between now and 2030, according to Poyry.

As a result, Poyry says the country will have to import biomass as well as improve forest management and ensure greater utilization of harvest residues.

Finland’s largest energy lobby group Energia also projects large increases in the use of biomass in the coming years.

“It’s slightly awkward that Finland would run an energy policy that we will make us a net importer of biomass. We are a forest country,” said its head Jukka Leskela.

CHEAPER TO IMPORT

Forests cover three-quarters of Finland’s land, but the country’s limited tree harvest quota is mostly reserved for the pulp industry and the government would be unable to add much more supply for energy use.

“The pressure is to limit the use of (domestic) wood… Ιt is normally used in the regions where there is a lot of wood and fewer people but now we are talking about towns with very little forest and many people. It is evident that we need imports,” said Riku Huttunen, head of Finland’s energy department, which is part of the ministry of economic affairs and employment.

The logistics of moving biomass from northern Finland was also a limitation, he said, as shipping from neighboring countries was cheaper for utilities.

Such imports could come from other countries around the Baltic coast, including Russia, from where Finland is already sourcing some of its biomass, said Leskela of Energia.

That is despite pressure from the European Union on its member states to reduce their energy reliance on Russia.

Energia’s estimates show biomass will account for nearly 60 percent of the fuel mix in Finland’s combined heat and power (CHP) plants in 2030, up from less than 30 percent currently.

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USA Sets New No-Drought Record

They predicted a permanent drought. They were wrong.

More than 283 million Americans currently live in regions experiencing no drought. This is the most people in the history of the US to experience no drought conditions at once.

The graph above shows data for the entire period covered by the US Drought Monitor. This week marks the first time in the record that >90% of the US has experienced conditions of NO drought. Some further info:

    • Since 2000, the linear trend in the data indicates that the overall proportion of the US experiencing no drought conditions increased from about 50% to about 60%.
    • According to the Drought Monitor, more than 283 million people currently live in regions experiencing no drought. This is the most people in the history of the US to experience no drought conditions at once.

Bits and Pieces 2019 May 15

UHI studies have been popping up

Chinese UHI study finds 0.34C/century inflation effect on average temperature estimate.

Glacier stops melting and starts to grow.

Where previously this was dropping in height by 20m a year, it’s now thickening by 20m a year.

“All this is a reminder of how unpredictable glaciers can be,” she told BBC News. 

American forests are being denuded and sent overseas as wood chips to replace coal.

Critics counter that every tree should account for itself. When a tree is harvested, the carbon it once stored is eventually released — be it at the smokestack or via decomposition on the ground — regardless of whether another tree down the road has been planted. That particular tree was counted on to continue absorbing carbon, to contribute to the existing carbon sink. “In essence, it’s like saying, ‘I don’t have to go on a diet, because my neighbor has decided they’re going to cut eating their ice cream,’” says Sami Yassa, a senior scientist with the Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

UK Carbon Footprint – Adding It Up

If you outsource your manufacturing to China (where they burn massive amounts of coal) and then claim your carbon footprint is shrinking … you are being dishonest.

The message of the Climateworks report is that EU nations aren’t cutting emissions so much as they are exporting or outsourcing them to places like China. That is, the UK no longer manufactures its own consumer goods — it imports them from China, where the manufacturing emissions occur. If anything, emissions are actually increasing in this process since they must be shipped from China back to the UK.

According to the report, UK imports are worth 5.7 metric tons on a per capita basis.

Adding the World Bank per capita carbon footprint of the UK (6.5 tons) to the carbon footprint of UK imports (5.7 tons), the actual per capita carbon footprint of the UK is 12.1 tons — which is about 10% greater than the 1960 per capita carbon footprint of the UK of 11 tons. And this increase in per capita footprint remains despite all the improvements in efficiency made over the past 60 years.

So yes, coal can be replaced by combinations of gas, nuclear and wind — but the notion that emissions are actually being cut is fake news.